Competitive gamble doesn't pay off for Falken drift team
Facing serious challenges from both competitors and the weather, Team Falken put on a valiant effort, but when it rolled the dice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Round 4 of the demanding Formula Drift competition, the team managed to make the semi-finals, with Falken’s Tyler McQuarrie losing to eventual overall winner Tanner Foust. McQuarrie placed fourth.
With track temperatures peaking at 145-degrees, and air temps at 110 degrees, great stress was placed on the high-revving engines of all competitors as well as the drivers themselves. During the consolation round to determine third place, McQuarrie suffered camshaft position sensor failure, but his crew was able to replace it in less than five minutes.
Teamwork became the order of the day. During practice on Friday night, Darren McNamara's Saturn Sky blew its motor. Since he was first in points for the Championship, Falken’s Calvin Wan made a considerable sacrifice when he stepped out of his Nissan Silvia to allow McNamara to compete in it in hopes of gaining precious points. The Silvia also was the best fit for McNamara as it was the only other Falken team car that is right hand drive, so collectively, they took the gamble on the replacement with the overall goal of bringing a championship back to Falken by the end of the season. Regrettably, McNamara had no practice behind the wheel of the Nissan and couldn’t qualify for the Top 32 main event on Saturday.
In addition, before qualifying began, Vaughn Gittin Jr. hit the wall very hard and tore the right front corner off his Mustang. The entire Falken team, along with assistance from Autosport Dynamics, pitched in to completely rebuild the front end in two hours, a herculean effort by all involved.
Falken tires were on five of the cars that qualified for the top 32. Daijiro Yoshihara, driving the much improved Lexus IS350, was the best qualifier in 5th, but slid into the barrier as he led his round. While the damage was cosmetic, he was unable to move forward. Three team members would advance to the top 16 -- McQuarrie, privateer Ross Petty and Gittin. Unfortunately, Gittin suffered a cut tire due to debris as he started the next round, forcing him to make major corrections to his line while he competed on his three remaining Azenis RT615 tires. McQuarrie defeated Michael Essa to move to the Top 4, and after losing to Foust, battled Chris Forsberg for third, but was unable to take the win.
It was a demanding weekend for Team Falken. The intense heat of Vegas brought on several mechanical failures, and as the sun went down, the grip levels changed dramatically and both drivers and crew chased the changing conditions in vain. On the positive side, Falken entertained a record number of local dealers who cheered on the team from the company’s substantial hospitality area.
Valiant efforts were undertaken by all, and Team Falken remains with three drivers in the top six positions. Overall standings now place Gittin in fourth, McQuarrie, fifth, and McNamara in sixth. Team Falken will head north by northwest when Formula D meets the “Breaking Point” at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., for Round 5, August 7-8.
For more information on Falken, visit www.falkentire.com.